Plenarveranstaltung II / Plenary session II: Bureaucratic closings - Bureaucratic openings

"Loops and holes: negotiating human rights at the ‘centre"

Sprecherin / Speaker:

Miia Halme-Tuomisaari (Helsinki Collegium For Advanced Studies, Finnland)

Over the past seven decades –since the adoption of the UDHR in 1948 –a vast global bureaucracy has emerged to accompany human rights. Embodied in different covenants, reporting genres and plans of actions, it has grown to such extents as to awaken concern that bureaucratic forms are overtaking  the  substance  of  human  rights,  leaving  nothing  but  an  empty  shell  behind.  An ethnographic account reveals, however, that there is still room for substantive negotiations if one knows where to look –and recognizes what negotiations look like. This paper discusses techniques of negotiation at the ‘centre’ of the contemporary human rights phenomenon, namely UN human rights treaty bodies in Geneva. By placing its analytical gaze on the ‘holes’ characterizing the ice-like structure of the global human rights apparatus, this paper focusses on the ‘loops’ that insiders mobilize to negotiate the content of human rights, often carefully de-personifying their actions, thus masking the use of power. Importantly, ‘looping’ is only possible for individuals with structurally allotted access to distinct ‘creative spaces’. This raises an inevitable question, applicable to our contemporary world more generally: is the ability to negotiate with bureaucratic forms  through  ‘loopholes’  the  ultimate  divide  between  the  world’s  privileged    and underprivileged?

Datum: Montag, 30. September 2019